Izzo-Watch: Day 3

Not much in the way of new information since yesterday's afternoon's post, except that Mark Hollis appears to be taking the situation very seriously:

"I’m doing everything in my power and the university is doing everything in its power to keep him here. If it comes out that he wants to win an NBA world championship, that’s up to him to decide.

"I hope to be here for his retirement party. … I’m prepared to do anything to protect our school."

Joe Rexrode's latest post (from which that quote is pulled) lays out the pros and cons of taking the Cavaliers job from Izzo's perspective quite nicely (and echoes what I said yesterday about the timing potentially working in MSU's favor).  This is a golden opportunity from a basketball perspective.  The chance to coach an immediate NBA title contender may not come along again.  As great a coach as Tom Izzo is, most NBA owners are not going to trust a powerhouse team to a college guy.  Izzo has to consider the opportunity carefully before ruling it out.  My gut feeling is that, if he turns this job down, he's at Michigan State for life.

As to the question of whether Izzo would be successful at the NBA level, I think it's very likely he would be.  He's smart enough and self-aware enough to adjust his style to what's needed to win.  Other college guys who've made the leap to the NBA in recent years (1) entered bad NBA situations and (2) hadn't been nearly as successful at the college level as Izzo has been (other than Rick Pitino, I suppose).  Stepping back further into time, Larry Brown did just fine as a successful college coach who was able to win at the NBA level when given the right group of players.

The question is whether he'd enjoy it.  (Izzo and Larry Brown pretty clearly place differing levels of importance on loyalty.)  As Rexrode notes, is Izzo really going to be happy coaching during the less-than-intense games that inevitably occur during an 82-game regular season that doesn't carry all that much weight in terms of playoff success?  With the strong personal bonds Izzo tends to form with his players (and others), how would he deal with the constant roster turnover in the NBA?

At the end of the day, this story is panic-inducing not so much because I think there's a high probability Izzo will leave, but because the consequences are potentially so earth-shattering.  There's no clear heir apparent to take over as MSU's head coach.  Promoting the top assistant only makes sense when there's a transition period before the promotion happens.  With Tom Crean's move to IU and the mini-implosion of Jim Boylen's Utah's team this past season, Brian Gregory would seem like the logical choice among former Izzo assistants.  He'd be a solid choice, but it's worth nothing he's only made the NCAA Tournament twice in seven years at Dayton--the first appearance occurring in his first season there.  (He also won the NIT championship this past season.)  If Izzo really left, MSU would have to take a hard look at hiring a well-established coach from another program with lesser financial resources (two names that jump out at me: Brad Stevens, Jamie Dixon).

Hopefully, I'm getting ahead of myself here (a little reverse-jinx blogging action can't hurt, right?).  In the bigger picture, Tom Izzo is THE face of the Michigan State University.  I don't blame him one iota for seriously considering what Cleveland has to offer, but it's disconcerting when your own face is looking elsewhere.

P.S. Remember that other perfect-for-frenzied-internet-discussion story we were talking about late last week?  Stewart Mandel has a nice rundown of the wide spectrum of outcomes that could happen in the conference realignment scramble.  At this point, I'm betting on more dramatic change vs. less dramatic change.  I don't see how the Big 12 developments do anything to force Notre Dame's hand into becoming Big Ten team #12, which seems like the one scenario in which everything mostly falls back into its current places.

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